While India’s Union Health Ministry is yet to take a decision on the roll-out of HPV vaccination against cervical cancer, misleading posts and videos are doing the rounds on social media channels.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. While India’s Union Health Ministry has said it is yet to take a decision on the roll-out of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination against cervical cancer, social media platforms are rife with misleading content against the vaccine, with many terming it as “turning Indians into guinea pigs”.
Sensational old videos have started popping up on X (formerly twitter) and unfounded theories about “shady human trials” for the HPV vaccine are doing the rounds on social media channels. To counter the mounting disinformation about HPV and cervical cancer, many institutes are taking proactive steps this #CervicalCancerAwarenessMonth.
The CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB), a premier institute engaged in research in genomics, molecular medicine and bioinformatics, has started its campaign stating that #Cervicalcancer is one of the most preventable cancers, thanks to the HPV vaccine.
Serum Institute of India, recognised as the world’s largest vaccine maker in its initiative, has also launched its awareness campaign on social media. In 2022, India approved its first indigenously developed HPV vaccine, Cervavac, by Serum Institute of India. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) is said to be in the process of incorporating the HPV vaccine as part of its Universal Immunisation Program.
According to the Lancet, in January 2023, the MOHFW wrote to seven state governments, requesting them to start preparations for the roll-out of the HPV vaccine for girls aged 9–14 years. “Once the notified states have covered children aged 9–14 years, HPV vaccination will become part of their routine immunisation programmes. Similar efforts will follow in another set of states and union territories in 2024 and again in 2025,” the article stated.
However, earlier this month the government issued a statement clarifying that media speculations about its HPV vaccination campaign in 2024 “are not true”. Interestingly, the clarification was titled “Myth vs. Facts”. “Media reports claiming that the government is set to roll out the HPV vaccination campaign for girls in the 9-14 years age group are false and speculative. The Union Health Ministry is yet to take a decision on commencement of HPV vaccination,” it stated.
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